It’s in the wrist action: nuances of fly-fishing
FALLS VILLAGE — “Fly-fishing is a frustrating and arduous sport,” said fly-fisherman (and Lakeville Journal reporter) Patrick Sullivan during his talk June 28 for the Tuesdays at Six lecture series.The weekly summertime lectures are sponsored by the Falls Village-Canaan Historical Society and are held in the stately white South Canaan Meeting House at the intersection of routes 7 and 63.Sullivan shared a bit of his history as a fisherman (and some tidbits of his life history) at the talk, and also divulged some trout-catching secrets collected during a lifetime of standing in rivers, brooks and lakes with rod and reel in hand.It’s taken almost that entire lifetime for him to develop any kind of competence at the sport, Sullivan said, noting that it takes “years of frustration before you get any good at fly-fishing.”He first learned to fish as a child, going out with his father, who he described as a dry-fly purist.“Dry-fly fishing is what people think of as fly-fishing,” he said, referring to images such as those seen in the movie “A River Runs Through It.” “The dry-fly fisherman stands facing upstream and casts upstream, so the fly floats back toward you, with no drag.”The fly floats on top of the water, he said, and you can see the fish pop up to try and eat it — if you’re lucky enough (or perhaps skilled enough) to attract a trout in that manner. Sullivan said he prefers wet fly fishing because it’s more of a sure thing.“Dry-fly fishing is only really good in a stream that runs straight and has no overhanging tree branches or inconvenient rocks. But most streams aren’t like that.“Besides which, trout get 90 percent of their food under the water. It’s safer and it’s more efficient for them.”He conceded that wet-fly fishing is less exciting.“Some people say you might as well go out and buy some dynamite.”But it does allow the fisherman to catch more fish.For those in the audience who had some experience with fishing, Sullivan offered advice on his favorite rods, flies and gear. While he was living in Albuquerque, N.M., some years ago, he said, he became friends with John Nichols, author of “The Milagro Beanfield War.” “Nichols taught me that it’s better to buy cheap equipment if you’re fishing anywhere that’s the least bit perilous,” Sullivan said. Nichols’ motto was “You buy it cheap, you don’t weep” if you break or lose something. Sullivan showed a vintage bamboo rod that used to belong to his father; and he showed a new model that he bought from the Cabela’s outdoor equipment chain. “The rod, reel and case cost $89,” he said. “I broke one and was able to buy a new one because it was so cheap. And it’s a nicer rod than other ones I have that cost four or five times as much.”One advantage that he noted is that the Cabela’s rod is slightly lighter than the bamboo rod. It’s a small difference in weight, he said, but when you multiply it over 5,000 casts, it starts to add up.Other products he likes include the elk-hair caddis fly, which is a good-for-most-situations fly that is also easy for him to see despite his “failing eyesight;” a chest pack instead of a vest (“it holds everything: flies, cigars, anything you want, and it weighs less than a vest”); and Jeff Passante’s “Housatonic River: Fly-Fishing Guide” (“It’s a little out of date because it was written before the power plant at Falls Village switched to run of river from pond and release,” he warned).Sullivan concluded his talk with a few words on the ethics of catching and releasing. The famed fishing teacher Lee Wulff wrote that, “A good game fish is too valuable to be caught only once.”As a result, he said he only keeps about 5 percent of the fish he catches — and those are usually only when he gets a special request from family or friends. He only applies those scruples to wild fish, however; he has no problem with keeping stocked fish (even if they don’t have as much flavor as their wild counterparts).He urged anyone who plans to release their catch to “tamp down the barbs on your hooks using a skinny needle-nose pliers. “It makes it 87,000 times easier to get the hook out of the fish — and out of your hand if you happen to snag yourself.”He also reminded fishermen that gravity is intense on a fish out of water, so when a photo of a trophy catch is taken, be sure to hold it upside down so the fishes belly is at the bottom. And when releasing the fish, be sure to fully submerge it in the water.“Both of your hands need to get wet.”All Tuesdays at Six lectures are free of charge and begin at 6 p.m. at the South Canaan Meeting House at the intersection of routes 7 and 63.The lecture on July 12 is “Victor’s Crown—Sports in the Ancient World,” presented by University of Michigan Professor of Classical Studies David Potter.